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Bathing water quality

Indicator Assessment Created 06 Mar 2012 Published 21 Mar 2012 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 07:00 PM
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Indicator codes: CSI 022 , WAT 004

Key messages

  • The quality of water at designated bathing waters in Europe (coastal and inland) has improved significantly since 1990.
  • Compliance with mandatory values in EU coastal bathing waters increased from just below 80 % in 1990 to 92.1 % in 2010. Compliance with guide values likewise rose from over 68 % to 79.5 % in 2010.
  • Compliance with mandatory values in EU inland bathing waters increased from 52 % in 1990 to 90.2 % in 2010. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values moved from 36.4 % in 1990 to 60.5 % in 2010.

Is bathing water quality improving?

Coastal bathing water quality in the European Union, 1990-2010

Note: 1990, 7 EU Member States; 1991 to 1994, 12 EU Member States; 1995-96, 14 EU Member States; 1997 to 2003, 15 EU Member States; 2004, 21 EU Member States; 2005-06, 25 EU Member States; 2007 to 2010, 27 EU Member States

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

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Inland bathing water quality in the European Union, 1990-2010

Note: The figure shows the bathing water quality in different European countries over time 1990, 7 EU Member States; 1991 to 1994, 12 EU Member States; 1995-96, 14 EU Member States; 1997 to 2003, 15 EU Member States; 2004, 21 EU Member States; 2005-06, 25 EU Member States; 2007 to 2010, 27 EU Member States. No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania). The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) for Hungary and Luxembourg are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC)

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

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Percentage of European coastal bathing waters complying with mandatory values and meeting guide values of the Bathing Water Directive for the year 2010 by country

Note: Countries arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values. Five Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia) and Switzerland have no coastal bathing waters. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) for Malta are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States, Croatia and Switzerland

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

Downloads and more info

Percentage of European inland bathing waters complying with mandatory values and meeting guide values of the Bathing Water Directive for the year 2010 by country

Note: Countries arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values. No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania), Croatia and Montenegro. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) for Hungary and Luxembourg are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States, Croatia and Switzerland

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

Downloads and more info

Percentage of European inland bathing waters complying with mandatory values and meeting guide values of the Bathing Water Directive for the year 2010 by sea region

Note: Sea regions arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values. EU Member States and Switzerland. No inland bathing waters are reported from three Member States (Cyprus, Malta and Romania), Croatia and Montenegro. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) for Hungary and Luxembourg are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States, Croatia and Switzerland

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

Downloads and more info

Percentage of European coastal bathing waters complying with mandatory values and meeting guide values of the Bathing Water Directive for the year 2010 by sea region

Note: Sea regions arranged by the percentage of compliance with mandatory values. EU Member States, Croatia and Montenegro. Five Member States (Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovakia) and Switzerland have no coastal bathing waters. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) for Malta are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Data source:

WISE Bathing Water Quality database based on annual reports by EU Member States, Croatia and Switzerland

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/data/bathing-water-directive-status-of-bathing-water-3

Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Introduction to Bathing Water Directives
The first European bathing water legislation, the ‘Bathing Water Directive’ was adopted in 1975 and came into force in 1976. Its main objectives are to safeguard public health and protect the aquatic environment in coastal and inland areas from pollution. Bathing waters covered by the Bathing Water Directive can be coastal waters or inland waters (rivers, natural lakes, reservoirs and ponds) in which bathing is explicitly authorised by the competent authorities of each Member State, or not prohibited and traditionally practiced by a large number of bathers. Swimming pools and waters for therapeutic purposes are not covered. The period during which bathers can be expected in bathing areas depends largely on local bathing rules and weather conditions. A bathing season can also vary within a Member State. In the European Union it usually runs from the end of May until the end of September.
New European legislation on bathing water was adopted in 2006. The ‘New Bathing Water Directive’ updates the measures of the 1975 legislation and simplifies its management and surveillance methods. The new directive requires that EU Member States comply with even stricter requirements and implement effective management of bathing water, public participation and better information dissemination.

The new directive will repeal the old one (Directive 76/160/EEC) by the end of 2014 at latest. Member States can choose to report either under the old or new directive until the 2012 bathing season when the reporting under the new one will become obligatory. In 2010, six countries, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom, as well as the Flemish part of Belgium reported under the old directive. The other EU Member States and the Walloon region of Belgium monitored and reported the state of bathing water under the new directive. Three non‑EU countries - Croatia, Montenegro and Switzerland - reported bathing water quality results under the new directive as well.

Assessing bathing water quality under the new directive requires a data set of three or four consecutive years instead of a single year's result as for the old directive. While those data are being compiled, the rules for transition period are applied. Comparison of bathing water quality by country is done with integration of three types of assessments. For six countries and the Flemish part of Belgium the assessment is done under the old directive. The overall assessment under the new directive could be done for Luxembourg, Malta and Hungary. The quality classes under the new directive are jointed with compliance categories under the old directive. For the other countries the assessment is done under the transition period rules.


Results
European Union (Figure 1-2)

See also EEA report: Quality of bathing water - 2010 bathing season

Europeans have a huge diversity of beautiful beaches and bathing areas at their disposal. In 2010, EU Member States reported 21 063 bathing waters, of which 70 % are coastal bathing waters.

The New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) requires Member States to adjust their monitoring procedures. These adjustments include the requirement that sampling begin shortly before the start of the bathing season and that the interval between sampling should not exceed one month. In some cases these required changes have yet to be implemented, resulting in a late start date of sampling at some sites and/or insufficiently frequent sampling. As a late start and low frequency do not necessarily indicate unsatisfactory bathing water quality, for 2010 results reported under less strict rules have been deemed acceptable. From 2012, however, the stricter rules will apply. Under the less strict rules, the assessment for Greece is based on a sampling period that begins at the end of July and runs to the end of the bathing water season. In addition, for all Member States results from monitoring at low frequency (less than 42 days between sampling dates) were accepted. Under the strict rules,  the first sample should be taken not later than 10 days after the start of the bathing season and the interval between sampling should not exceed one month.

Coastal bathing waters

Some 92.1 % of coastal bathing waters complied with the mandatory values and some 79.5 % of coastal bathing waters complied with the more stringent guide values during the 2010 bathing season (Fig. 1). This is a decrease of 3.5 percentage points and 9.5 percentage points respectively compared to the previous year. A small share of coastal bathing waters (1.2 %) did not comply with mandatory values in 2010, which is a 0.4 percentage point decrease from 2009. The number of bathing waters not complying with the bathing water directives' provisions decreased from 565 (9.2 %) in 1990 to 173 (1.2 %) in 2010. Only 0.3 % of bathing waters were banned or closed during the season, which represents a 2 percentage point decrease from 2009.

Compliance with mandatory values increased from just below 80 % in 1990 to over 95 % in 1999, and has remained quite stable since then (Fig. 1). Compliance with guide values likewise rose from over 68 % to over 89 % in 2003 and was then nearly constant but with a drop to 79.5 % in 2010.

Even with the less strict monitoring frequency criteria applied, in 2010 there was an increase in the number of insufficiently sampled or non‑sampled sites. Some 937 (6.4 %) coastal bathing waters were insufficiently sampled or not sampled compared to 100 or less (below 1 %) since 2003. If strict rules for monitoring frequency and start date were applied, then all coastal bathing waters in Greece, 65.6 % of Italian coastal bathing waters and some bathing waters elsewhere would be classified as insufficiently sampled. Since this comprises almost 40 % of all EU coastal bathing waters, only 59.2 % of coastal bathing waters would comply with the mandatory values and 49.1 % with the more stringent guide values if the strict rules were applied.

Inland bathing waters
In 2010, 90.2 % of inland bathing waters in the European Union were compliant with the mandatory values during the bathing season, a figure 0.8 percentage points higher than in the previous year (Fig. 2). The number of inland bathing waters complying with the more stringent guide values decreased by 10.2 percentage points compared to 2009, reaching 60.5 %. Only 2.8 % of inland bathing areas in the European Union did not comply with mandatory values, which represented a 0.3 percentage point decrease. The share of bathing waters that were banned or closed during the season in 2010 was 1.6 %, a decrease of 3.1 percentage points in comparison to 2009.

The overall quality of inland bathing areas in the EU has markedly improved since 1990 but with greater variations than coastal bathing waters (Fig. 2). In 1990, some 52 % of inland bathing areas complied with mandatory values. This number reached 90 % by the early 2000s and decreased slightly afterwards before recovering to 92 % in 2008. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values changed from 36.4 % in 1990 to over 70 % since 2008. More recently, the percentage of bathing waters complying with guide values dropped again. Nevertheless, the number of inland bathing areas not complying with mandatory values decreased from 11.9 % in 1990 to 2.8 % in 2010, which is among the lowest levels to date.

Applying the strict rules, 8.1 % of inland bathing waters were insufficiently sampled or not sampled in 2010, a figure 2.7 % higher than that derived when applying the less strict rules and the highest share since 1997. Under the strict rules, 87.5 % of inland bathing waters in the European Union complied with the mandatory values and 58.4 % of inland bathing waters complied with the more stringent guide values during the 2010 bathing season.

Assessment by countries (Figure 3-4)

See also WISE interactive map: State of bathing waters


Coastal bathing waters
A total of 24 countries reported coastal bathing waters. Italy (4 896), Greece (2 149), France (2 012), Spain (1 930), Denmark (1 054), Croatia (913) and the United Kingdom (596) have the highest number of coastal bathing waters. Countries with less than 50 coastal bathing waters are Romania (49), Belgium (42), Latvia (33), Estonia (27), Slovenia (21), Montenegro (17) and Lithuania (16). There are no coastal bathing waters in Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia and Switzerland. 

Generally the proportion of bathing waters in the countries complying with the stricter guide or mandatory values was higher for coastal waters than inland waters.

Cyprus, Lithuania, Slovenia, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Estonia, Belgium, Romania and  Montenegro achieved 100 % compliance with mandatory values in their coastal bathing waters in 2010, while Germany almost achieved it (99.5 %) (Fig. 5). The mandatory water quality was below the average of the European Union (92.1 %) only in France (89.4 %), Italy (85.3 %) and Poland (75 %). In addition, the Netherlands (92.2 %) reached below average compliance compared to the European average of 92.5 %.

Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia also reached total compliance with the guide values in the coastal bathing waters. The compliance rate was above 90 %  also in Croatia (97.3 %), Malta (95.4 %), Greece (94.2 %) and Ireland (92.6 %). The guide water quality was below the average of the European Union (79.5  %) in 11 countries. The lowest compliance with the guide values (below 70 %) was reached in France (68.4 %), the Netherlands (60 %), Belgium (26.2 %), Poland (15.9 %), Romania (2 %) and Montenegro (0 %).

Inland bathing waters
A total of 25 countries reported inland bathing waters on lakes and rivers. Germany and France have the highest number of inland bathing waters (1 915 and 1 314 respectively). The other countries with more than 250 inland bathing waters are Italy (596), the Netherlands (579), Switzerland (381), Austria (268) and Hungary (251). Countries with less than 50 inland bathing waters are Slovakia (36), Estonia (28), Slovenia (25), Luxembourg (20), Latvia (14), the United Kingdom (12), Ireland (nine), Greece (six) and Bulgaria (four). The reasons for such low numbers vary by countries. There are no inland bathing waters reported from Croatia, Cyprus, Malta, Montenegro and Romania.

Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Estonia, the United Kingdom and Slovenia achieved 100 % compliance with mandatory values in their inland bathing waters in 2010 (Fig. 6). The compliance rate was lower than the average of the European Union (90.2 %) in 10 countries. Countries with the lowest compliance rate with the mandatory values (below 80 %) are Belgium (79 %), Ireland (77.8 %), Poland (77.5 %), Italy (72.7 %), Hungary (55.8 %) and Luxembourg (50 %).

As with the coastal bathing waters, the differences among countries in regard to guide values are higher than in regard to mandatory values. Only Bulgaria reached total compliance with the guide values in the inland bathing waters. The compliance rate was above 80 %  also in Denmark (90.4 %), Finland (87.2 %) and Greece (83.3 %). The guide water quality was lower than the average of the European Union (60.5 %) in 15 countries. Countries with the lowest compliance rate with the guide values (below 50 %) are France (47.7 %), Hungary (46.6 %), the Netherlands (45.9 %), Lithuania (45.9 %), Slovakia (41.7 %), Spain (31.8 %), Belgium (29.6 %) and Poland (29.5 %).

Assessment by sea regions (Figure 5-6): EU27 plus Croatia, Montenegro and Switzerland

Coastal bathing waters
The majority of coastal bathing waters are located on the Mediterranean Sea coasts (about 9 900), representing almost two thirds of all reported coastal bathing waters in Europe. The number of coastal bathing waters is more than 2 400 on the Atlantic Ocean coasts and more than 2 200 on the North Sea coasts. This number is much lower for the Baltic Sea and Black Sea coasts (about 660 and 140 respectively).

Total compliance with the mandatory values in the coastal bathing waters in 2010 was reached on the Black Sea coasts (Fig. 3). The compliance rate was above the average of the European Union (92.1 %) also on the North Sea (97.7 %), the Baltic Sea (93.5 %) and the Mediterranean Sea coasts (92.3 %). The compliance rate was below average only on the Atlantic Ocean coasts (88.4 %). The European average (including Croatia and Montenegro) was slightly above the EU average (92.5 %).   

Only the Mediterranean Sea coasts (85.3 %)  had above average compliance rate with the guide values in the coastal bathing waters compared to the EU average of 79.5  % and the European average (including Croatia and Montenegro) of 80.4 %. The Atlantic Ocean and North Sea coasts achieved the same compliance rate with the guide values (73.5 %). On the Baltic Sea coasts, 64.9 % of coastal bathing waters complied with the guide values. The lowest compliance was reached on the Black Sea coasts (55.4 %).

Inland bathing waters

The North Sea catchment area covers the highest number of inland bathing waters in Europe (more than 2 800), accounting for about 40 % of all reported inland bathing waters in Europe. The share of inland bathing waters in other sea region catchment areas is similar, ranking from 12 to 19 %. There are more than 1 300 bathing waters in the Mediterranean Sea catchment area. The number of inland bathing waters is more than 950 in the Black Sea and about 860 in the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean catchment areas.

In the North Sea (93 %), Atlantic Ocean (92.4 %) and Baltic Sea catchment areas (91.2 %), the compliance rate with the mandatory values in the inland bathing waters was above the average of the European Union of 90.2 % and the European average (including Switzerland) of 90.5 % in 2010 (Fig. 4). The compliance rate in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea catchment areas stood at 89.3 % and 86.6 %, respectively.

As with the coastal bathing waters, the differences among sea regions in regard to guide values are higher compared to the mandatory values. Inland bathing waters in the Black Sea (66.2 %), North Sea (65.5 %) and Baltic Sea catchment areas (64.6 %) performed above average in meeting the guide values compared to the EU average of 60.5 % and the European average (including Switzerland) of 60.8 %. Some 55.9 % of inland bathing waters in the Mediterranean Sea catchment area and 46.2 % of inland bathing waters in the Atlantic Ocean catchment area complied with the guide values.



Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

The indicator describes the changes over time in the quality of identified bathing waters (inland and coastal) in EU in terms of compliance with standards for parameters introduced by the EU Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) , i.e. microbiological parameters (total coliforms and faecal coliforms) and physicochemical parameters (mineral oils, surface-active substances and phenols), as well as in terms of meeting standards for parameters introduced by the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC), i.e. microbiological parameters (intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli). The indicator also shows bathing water quality results in the European countries and European sea regions for the 2012 bathing season. The indicator is based on the annual reports made by Member States, as well as Croatia and Switzerland to the European Commission. Croatia (Member State from July 2013) is not included in EU average up to the 2012 season.

Units

The data are expressed in terms of percentage of inland and coastal bathing waters complying with the mandatory values and guide values for microbiological and physicochemical parameters (assessment under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) in previous years) and with the mandatory value for Escherichia coli and guide values for Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci respectively (assessment during transition period). The data are also expressed in terms of percentage of inland and coastal bathing waters of excellent and at least sufficient quality (assessment under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC)). In addition, Figure 1 and 2 show percentage of coastal and inland bathing waters per compliance category or quality class where all categories/classes are presented. The quality classes under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) are jointed with compliance categories under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC). Some bathing waters cannot be classified according to compliance or quality but are instead classified as closed, insufficiently sampled or not sampled, new or changes.  


Policy context and targets

Context description

Under the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC) Member States are required to designate coastal and inland bathing waters and to monitor the quality of the water throughout the bathing season. Bathing waters are designated where bathing is authorised by the competent authority and also where bathing is traditionally practised by a large number of bathers. The bathing season is then determined according to the period when there are the largest number of bathers (May to September in most European countries). The quality of the water has to be monitored fortnightly during the bathing season and also two weeks before. The sampling frequency may be reduced by a factor of two if the water quality gets a good rating for two previous consecutive years (compliance with mandatory or guide values). Annex 1 of the directive lists a number of parameters to be monitored but the focus has been on bacteriological quality. The directive sets both minimum standards (mandatory) and optimum standards (guide). For compliance with the directive, 95% of the samples must comply with the mandatory standards. To be classified as achieving guide values, 80% of the samples must comply with the total and faecal coliform standards and 90% with the standards for the other parameters.

On 24 October 2002, the Commission adopted the proposal for a revised Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning the Quality of Bathing Water COM(2002)581. The New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) entered into force on 24.3.2006. It applies to any element of surface water where the competent authority expects a large number of people to bathe and has not imposed a permanent bathing prohibition, or issued permanent advice against bathing, except for swimming pools and spa pools, confined waters subject to treatment or used for therapeutic purposes and artificially created confined waters separated from surface water and groundwater. The Directive makes use of only two bacteriological indicator parameters, but sets a higher health standard than the Directive 76/160/EC. Based on international epidemiological research and the experience with implementing the current Bathing Water and Water Framework Directives, the revised Directive provides long-term quality assessment and management methods in order to reduce both monitoring frequency and monitoring costs. It creates four quality categories for bathing waters - 'poor', 'sufficient', 'good' and 'excellent'. The classification of bathing water quality is determined on the basis of a four-year trend instead of a single year's result, as was the case for the Bathing Water Directive. Member States have until December 2014 to achieve full implementation of the New Bathing Water Directive. As such Member States could choose to report either under the Bathing Water Directive or the New Bathing Water Directive until the 2011 bathing season. From the 2012 bathing season reporting under the New Bathing Water Directive becomes obligatory since the first classification according to the requirements of this Directive shall be completed by the end of the 2015 bathing season (using data for the period 2012-2015). Member States must take one sample at each bathing place shortly before the start of the bathing season and continue sampling until the end of the season, with at least one sample per month for Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci.

The New Bathing Water Directive lays down provisions for more sophisticated monitoring and classification of bathing water. It also provides for extensive public information and participation in line with the Århus Convention as well as for comprehensive and modern management measures:

• The Directive requires Member States to draw up a management plan for each site to minimise risks to bathers based on an assessment of the sources of contamination that are likely to affect it. Users of the site should be actively involved in developing the management plan. Where bathing sites have a history of poor water quality, preventive measures should be taken to close the bathing area when such conditions are forecasted. If the quality standards are not respected, remedial measures must be taken.
• Information on a bathing site’s quality classification, the results of water quality monitoring, the site’s management plan and other relevant information is to be made readily available to the public, both through displays at the site and through the media and internet.
• While the Directive 76/160/EEC requires regular monitoring of 19 pollutants or other parameters (for example water colour) the revised Directive reduces this list to just two microbiological indicators of faecal contamination, E. Coli and intestinal enterococci. This simplification reflects recognition that faecal matter, for instance due to inadequate sewage treatment and pollution from animal waste, is the primary health threat to bathers.
• The classification of water quality at a bathing site is determined on the basis of a four year trend instead of a single year’s result, as was the case for the Bathing Water Directive. This means that the classification is less susceptible to bad weather or one-off incidents. Where water quality is consistently good over a four year period the frequency of sampling may be reduced, thereby cutting costs. It provides for the assessment of water quality on the basis of the set of water quality data compiled during the bathing seasons.
• The Directive requires "bathing profiles" to be drawn up describing the characteristics of the bathing water and identifying sources of pollution. The presence of pollution may result in needing to regularly review the status of the bathing, ban bathing there if needed and inform the public.
• To ease the monitoring burden for Member States the Directive reduces monitoring frequencies if the quality of bathing areas proves to be constantly "good" or "excellent".

Targets

All bathing waters to comply with mandatory values in Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC).

Increase in number of bathing waters complying with guide values in Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC). 

All bathing waters are at least ‘sufficient’ by the end of the 2015 bathing season in New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC). 

Increase the number of bathing waters classified as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ in New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC).

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC)

The parameters to be taken into account for assessment according to the assessment rules of the Directive 76/160/EEC are microbiological (1 Total coliforms, 2 Faecal coliforms) and physico-chemical (8 Mineral oils, 9 Surface-active substances reacting with methylene blue, 10 Phenols (phenol indices)). The assessment under this Directive was done up to the 2011 bathing season (three countries still reported and being assessed under this Directive) since reporting under the Directive 2006/7/EC becomes obligatory from the 2012 season on.

The results are classified in the following categories:

    • CI: Compliant with mandatory values of the Directive for the five parameters;
    • CG: Compliant with mandatory and more stringent guide values of the Directive for the five parameters;
    • NC: Not compliant with mandatory values of the Directive for the five parameters;
    • NF: Bathing waters that are not sufficiently sampled (frequency criteria not satisfied);
    • NS: Bathing waters that are not sampled due to external causes;
    • B: Banned or closed.

 

Assessment during the transition period - reporting under the New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC) and assessment according to the limit values of the Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC)

Assessing bathing water quality under Directive 2006/7/EC requires a data set of four consecutive years. While those data are being compiled, the rules for transition period are applied. This means that the classification of bathing waters is defined on the basis of concentrations of intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli reported under Directive 2006/7/EC. The limit values for the classification are taken from the Directive 76/160/EEC. The parameter intestinal enterococci is evaluated according to the guide value for the faecal streptococci parameter given in Directive 76/160/EEC. The parameter Escherichia coli is evaluated according to the mandatory and guide values for the parameter faecal coliforms given in Directive 76/160/EEC.

The results are classified in the following categories:

  • CI: Compliant with the mandatory value of the Directive 76/160/EEC for Escherichia coli and not compliant with the guide values of the Directive 76/160/EEC for Escherichia coli or intestinal enterococci;
  • CG: Compliant with the mandatory value of the Directive 76/160/EEC for Escherichia coli and the more stringent guide values for the Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci; 
  • NC: Not compliant with the mandatory value of the Directive 76/160/EEC for Escherichia coli
  • NF: Bathing waters that are not sufficiently sampled (frequency criteria not satisfied);
  • NS: Bathing waters that are not sampled due to external causes;
  • B: Banned or closed.

 

The frequency of sampling is set out in Annex IV of the Directive 2006/7/EC. Including a sample to be taken shortly before the start of the bathing season, the minimum number of samples taken per bathing season is four. However, only three samples are sufficient when the bathing season does not exceed eight weeks or the region is subject to special geographical constraints. Sampling dates are to be distributed throughout the bathing season, with the interval between sampling dates never exceeding one month.

One pre-season sample should be available and the interval between sampling dates in 2012 should never exceed 35 days, provided that the next sampling is done according to the monitoring calendar.

The sampling frequency rules applied in previous years are described in annual European and national bathing water reports for previous seasons. The previous reports are available at the European Environment Agency’s bathing water website (http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/status-and-monitoring/state-of-bathing-water).

New Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/EC)

When four consecutive years of samples of intestinal enterococci and Escherichia coli for bathing water are available, the assessment is done according to assessment rules of the Directive 2006/7/EC.

Coastal and inland bathing waters are classified as 'excellent', 'good', 'sufficient' and 'poor' quality. The assessment is based on a percentile evaluation and defines three different standards separately for inland and coastal bathing waters. The standards for excellent and good quality are based on a 95-percentile evaluation; the standards for sufficient quality are based on a 90-percentile evaluation. Bathing waters not meeting the standards for sufficient quality are classified as poor. Some bathing waters cannot be classified according to their quality but are instead classified as 'closed' (bathing water is closed temporarily or throughout the 2012 season and a complete set of data is not available), 'new' (bathing water is newly identified and classification not yet possible), 'insufficiently sampled' (a pre-season sample is missing, sampling frequency is not satisfied or a set of data is not complete) or 'changes' (bathing water is not new and classification not yet possible since a set of monitoring data is incomplete).

The frequency of sampling is set out in Annex IV of the Directive. Including a sample to be taken shortly before the start of the bathing season, the minimum number of samples taken per bathing season is four. However, only three samples are sufficient when the bathing season does not exceed eight weeks or the region is subject to special geographical constraints. Sampling dates are to be distributed throughout the bathing season, with the interval between sampling dates never exceeding one month.

The assessment provisions of the Directive 2006/7/EC are transformed into the following technical rules: a) one pre-season sample should be available; b) the interval between sampling dates in 2012 should never exceed 35 days, provided that the next sampling is done according to the monitoring calendar; c) the yearly number of samples in the previous years should be four or three if bathing season does not exceed eight weeks or the region is subject to special geographical constraints. Furthermore, the number of samples for the assessment period should be at least 16 or 12 if season duration is less than eight weeks or the region is subject to special geographical constraints.

Hungary grouped 54 % of the bathing waters (124 out of 232) into 44 groups for the 2012 bathing season. Therefore, the assessment of bathing water quality in 2012 is done by groups. The samples obtained during the season from any of the bathing waters in a group were treated as one set of samples for the group. The classification of bathing waters in a group is done on the basis of this sample set.

The sampling frequency rules applied in previous years are described in annual European and national bathing water reports for previous seasons. The previous reports are available at the European Environment Agency’s bathing water website (http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/status-and-monitoring/state-of-bathing-water).

Methodology for gap filling

No gaps are filled.

Methodology references

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

There are differences in how countries have interpreted and implemented the directive leading to differences in the representativeness of bathing waters included in terms of recreational water use.

Data sets uncertainty

The EU has expanded during the life of the Directive from 12 countries in 1992 to 28 at present. The time series is thus is not consistent in terms of geographic coverage. The new EU Member States have reported on the quality of their bathing waters since 2004 or 2005 (EU-10), 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania) and 2009 (Croatia). Croatia (Member State from July 2013) is not included in EU average up to the 2012 season. Switzerland has reported on the quality of their bathing waters since 2009 and Montenegro reported for 2010 and 2011. No allowance is made for differences between the years in the number of (EU) countries reporting, and the numbers of identified bathing waters.

Rationale uncertainty

Human enteric viruses are the most likely pathogens responsible for waterborne diseases from recreational water use but detection methods are complex and costly for routine monitoring, and so the main parameters analysed for compliance with the Directive are indicator organisms; total and faecal coliforms. Compliance with the mandatory standards and guide levels for these indicator organisms does not therefore guarantee that there is no risk to human health.

The Directive 2006/7/EC reduces the number of parameters from 19 to 2 key microbiological parameters, complemented by visual inspection such as algae bloom, and oil.The parameters used for setting the standards were reviewed and streamlined, focusing on the most robust microbiological indicators which are the most relevant for human health. Parameters are based on the latest scientific evidence.

The new parameters are the following:

  • Escherichia coli to replace the faecal coliforms parameter;
  • intestinal enterococci to replace the faecal streptococci parameter.

 Other microbiological parameters such as total coliforms and enteroviruses were removed because according to the latest scientific evidence they were not considered to be the best indicators for assessing bathing water quality. The choice of microbiological parameters is based on available scientific evidence provided by epidemiological studies conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and health institutes in Germany, France and Netherlands.

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

Water Water (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
soer2010 | csi | freshwater quality | water | bathing water | bathing water quality | thematic assessments | freshwater
DPSIR: State
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 022
  • WAT 004
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2010
Geographic coverage:
Atlantic, Austria, Belgium, Black Sea, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kentucky, United States, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marine Baltic sea, Marine North sea, Mediterranean, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Peter Kristensen

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2011 1.4.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100